Learners' understanding of proportion : a case study from Grade 8 mathematics
Underachievement in Mathematics hangs over South African Mathematics learners like a dark cloud. TIMSS studies over the past decade have confirmed that South African learners‟ results (Grades 8 and 9 in 2011) remained at a low ebb, denying them the opportunity to compete and excel globally in the field of Mathematics. It is against this backdrop that the researcher investigated the meaningful understanding of the important yet challenging algebraic concept of Proportion. The theoretical as well as the empirical underpinnings of the fundamental idea of Proportion are highlighted. The meaningful learning of Algebra was explored and physical, effective and cognitive factors affecting meaningful learning of Algebra, views on Mathematics and learning theories were examined. The research narrowed down to the meaningful understanding of Proportion, misconceptions, and facilitation in developing Proportional reasoning. This study was embedded in an interpretive paradigm and the research design was qualitative in nature. The qualitative data was collected via task sheets and interviews. The sample informing the central phenomenon in the study consisted of a heterogeneous group of learners and comprised a kaleidoscope of nationalities, both genders, a variety of home languages, differing socio-economic statuses and varying cognitive abilities. The findings cannot be generalised. Triangulation of the literature review, the analysis of task sheets and interviews revealed that overall the participants have a meaningful understanding of the Proportion concept. However, a variety of misconceptions were observed in certain cases. Finally, recommendations are made to address the meaningful learning of Proportion and its associated misconceptions. It is hoped that teachers read and act on the recommendations as it is the powerful mind and purposeful teaching of the teacher that can make a difference in uplifting the standard of Mathematics in South African classrooms!
- Education